Botetourt County schools will begin releasing students two hours early on Wednesdays next month due to high transmission rates of COVID-19, the school system announced Thursday.
The new measure will begin Oct. 20 and continue through the end of the semester, in an effort to provide families ample time to make arrangements for after school care, according to county schools spokesman Mike Moser.
The system’s teachers are being stretched thin and a lack of substitutes is only exacerbating the situation, Superintendent Jonathan Russ stated in the release.
“Given the high community transmission rates, the shortage of available substitutes, and the resulting impact in our schools, our teachers have been covering classes during their planning periods while balancing an increased workload to keep their in-person and remote learners on track.
“We are making this change to our school calendar to provide staff with additional time to address these unique circumstances. I sincerely thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and efforts to support our remarkable instructional staff!” his statement read.
Moser couldn’t immediately answer how many substitute teachers are still needed, but there are currently six staff members that tested positive this week for the virus, according to the school system’s COVID dashboard.
“When a staff member is required to quarantine, it certainly has an impact on the demand for substitutes to fill vacancies,” Moser wrote in an email.
Staff with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and remain asymptomatic since the current exposure, or have had COVID-19 within the past three months and remain asymptomatic since the current exposure, according to the school system’s COVID-19 health plan.
If a staff member displays symptoms, the policy states that they must remain in quarantine for at least 10 days until symptoms improve, and they’ve gone at least 24 hours with no fever without using fever-reducing medication.
For those who test positive for the virus and are asymptomatic, they must be quarantined for at least 10 days and still have no symptoms of the virus before returning to work, according to the school’s plan. Staff with a positive test and symptoms may be required to quarantine for longer than 10 days.
Botetourt county schools has approximately 4,500 students. Twenty-seven staff members and 108 students have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the school year.
The second semester begins Jan. 5.